Mixing desert rock with heavy metal, this second album from the Swiss band of Ephedra starts its twelve-track trek with a slow-brewed cruiser bruiser in the seven-minute “Vicious Circle”, as the quartet lets their instruments do all of the talking, apart from some well-incorporated spoken-word samples. Bringing an unusually serious tone to the sun-baked grooves of their style, the band shows a willingness to bring the subtler notes out into the exposing light of solos, though later tracks find them just as committed to simply rocking, and doing it hard.
At times, they had me in mind of Behold! The Monolith‘s Architects of the Void album, just shifted to a friendlier, mellower setting. The riffs get put to heavy work, but there’s also tangential touches tucked away in the measures that help stave off the sense of overwrought narrow focus to which even the most well-regarded heavy rock bands can fall victim. It made me grin to hear the guitarist crank away on his whammy bar in the opening of “Cornfield Disaster”, and the drummer working a beat, later in that same song, which went above simply plugging away on the same rhythm for sixteen measures in a row.
There’s an endearing energy and character to the songs, despite the absence of vocals, that gave me a sense of Ephedra looking to all their contemporaries in the heavy rock/metal field, and deciding they would aim for something to call everyone else into stepping up their game. Not everyone will, of course, as mediocrity is just too comfortable for a lot of stoner rock bands, but it’s refreshing to hear a band which won’t let themselves settle into that rut.